Derek McInnes slams ‘really poor’ ref as Dons exit Europe

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes hit out at Bulgarian referee Nikola Popov after the Dons' 1-0 defeat in Maribor ended their Europa League hopes.
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes hit out at Bulgarian referee Nikola Popov after the Dons' 1-0 defeat in Maribor ended their Europa League hopes.
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Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes hit out at Bulgarian referee Nikola Popov after Aberdeen exited the Europa League last night in Maribor.

Adam Rooney missed a first-half penalty and goalkeeper Joe Lewis allowed a Graeme Shinnie passback to run past him and in late on as the Slovenians won 2-1 on aggregate.

The Pittodrie side were furious about a series of decisions by the referee, culminating in the sending off of substitute Jayden Stockley for two alleged elbowing offences just eight minutes after he came on. McInnes was also unhappy that no advantage was played when Adam Rooney was tripped by Maribor keeper Jasmin Handanovic in the box and Niall McGinn put the ball into an empty net.

Popov also only showed Handanovic a yellow card after the change of the “double jeopardy” rules that would have previously meant a red card. The keeper saved Rooney’s spot kick and McInnes said: “The referee and all the officials were really poor tonight. Games are decided on key moments and you could talk about Rooney’s penalty miss but we still had to overcome the officials.

“Football is a contact sport but right from the outset he blew his whistle at the slightest thing. He didn’t let the game flow and the sending off is ridiculous. I don’t even think either were a booking because Jayden has just used his arm for leverage. There were no elbows.

“He was very quick to blow for the penalty when Niall McGinn was running through to put the ball into the net. My feeling at the time as that the goal should stand.

“The ref was too eager to blow his whistle.”

McInnes admitted his team will be left to rue a missed chance to qualify for the Europa League group phase – exiting the competition at the same stage for the third year in a row.

He added: “I thought over the two games we deserved more because of the way we played. It is very harsh on us. We can be happy with the way we’ve performed.

“Even with ten men they didn’t cut us open too much and we grew stronger as the game wore on.”

McInnes also refused to blame either Rooney or Lewis.

McInnes said: “Adam is usually very reliable and I can’t remember him missing a 
penalty. We don’t apportion blame to him for that, he’s been brilliant for us over the years.

“The same goes for Joe Lewis, it was a horrendous bobble. I’ve watched it back and it comes six inches off the ground.”